NAIROBI, Aug 29 – Two Kenyan policeman died overnight of injuries from a grenade attack during riots in the port city of Mombasa, taking the toll of officers killed by the blast to three, police said on Wednesday.
“We have lost two more officers, they succumbed to injuries in the night,” said regional police chief Aggrey Adoli, adding that situation in Mombasa, which has seen two days of deadly protest, was so far calm. One person was killed in riots on Monday following the assassination of a radical cleric.
On Tuesday, angry youths killed one policeman and wounded over a dozen others in a grenade, as riots rocked the city of Mombasa for a second day after the killing of a radical Islamist cleric.
The attack on a police truck came as officers tried to contain protests by hundreds of angry youths who threw stones, damaged cars and chanted slogans in support of slain preacher Aboud Rogo Mohammed.
Foreign embassies – including those of Australia, Britain and France – issued travel warnings for Mombasa, a key tourist hub and Kenya’s main port.
The cleric – popularly known as Rogo – was on US and UN sanctions lists for allegedly supporting Somalia’s Al-Qaeda-linked Shabaab militants.
He was killed Monday in Mombasa when unidentified gunmen opened fire on his vehicle as he was driving with his wife and children, leaving it riddled with bullets.
Images released by his supporters showed his bloody corpse slumped behind the wheel. His wife and children reportedly survived the attack.
Furious protests erupted after his death, with one person hacked to death, cars torched, businesses attacked and five churches looted or set on fire.
As the rioting stretched into a second day Tuesday, the Shabaab called on Kenyan Muslims to “take all necessary measures” to defend their religion.
“Muslims must take the matter into their own hands, stand united against the kuffar (unbelievers) and take all necessary measures to protect their religion, their honour, their property and their lives from the enemies of Islam,” the Islamist group said in a statement.
Staff in Mombasa’s main hospital reported Tuesday that at least 14 people had been injured in the clashes, while two anti-riot police were also wounded apart from those hit by the grenade attack, police said.
The Supreme Council of Muslims in Kenya condemned the violence, especially the targeting of churches.
“This kind of violence goes against our faith. The protesters shouldn’t hide behind Islam or any of its teachings,” said the council’s secretary general, Adan Wachu. “These are criminals and should be treated as such.”
— ‘Targeted assassination’ —
Rogo was the spiritual leader of the Muslim Youth Center (MYC), a group viewed as a close ally of the extremist Shabaab.
The Islamist MYC blamed the authorities for what they called a “targeted assassination”, but police have dismissed the claim and say they are hunting the killers.
“Our beloved Sheikh Aboud Rogo… was murdered by the (unbelievers) as part of Kenya’s policy of extra-judicial killings against prominent Muslim activists,” the MYC said Tuesday in a statement.
Police in turn blamed the killing on the Shabaab, with police spokesman Charles Owino saying the group had sought “to galvanise support among the youth”.
“Rogo’s murder was a well-planned attack by members of Al-Shabaab to gain sympathisers…. The Shabaab have failed to get followers,” Owino told AFP.
Human Rights Watch called for a probe into the killing.
“The killing of Aboud Rogo is a serious crime that needs speedy independent and impartial investigation,” said Leslie Lefkow, the rights group’s deputy Africa director.
Human Rights Watch also noted that the killing “follows the abductions and deaths earlier this year of several other people charged with recruitment and other offences related to the Shabaab.”
The preacher was placed on a US sanctions list in July for “engaging in acts that directly or indirectly threaten the peace, security or stability of Somalia”, specifically for recruiting and fundraising for the Shabaab.
The United Nations Security Council placed a travel ban and asset freeze on him in July, saying he had provided “financial, material, logistical or technical support to Al-Shabaab”.
Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Monday condemned Rogo’s “horrific” murder, adding the government was “committed to bringing whoever was responsible to justice”.
Rogo had been accused by the UN of using the MYC group as “a pathway for radicalisation and recruitment of principally Swahili-speaking Africans for carrying out violent militant activity in Somalia.”
The cleric is also alleged to have introduced Fazul Abdullah Mohammed – the late head of Al-Qaeda’s east Africa cell, shot dead last year in Somalia’s war-torn capital Mogadishu – to at least one of the men who helped him carry out the twin US embassy bombings in 1998.
The bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam killed 224 people.